Meet Maggie Klinedinst:
Savvy Psilocybin Scientist
Maggie is the Senior Research Program Coordinator at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. We met her at the 2013 Telluride Mushroom Festival and were instantly blown away by her wits, wisdom and friendliness and thought she would make a great fit for the Female & Fungi community. We are proud to introduce Maggie as our first ever Womyn of the Month! We hope you enjoy learning about her as much as we did!
Interview with Maggie Klinedinst:
Female & Fungi: Hey Maggie! It was great connecting with you in Telluride, how are things going now that you’re back home?
Maggie Klinedinst: Things have been a bit difficult coming back east… I think it’s the speed and immediacy of everything here that has been a real buzzkill… Plus I don’t get to interface with lovely people like ya’ll. I had such a wonderful time meeting all of you. I came back home and my friends were asking about who I met, what people were like, etc. etc. and I felt like Pollyanna saying that everyone was so kind, generous, and compassionate—-but that’s totally true! Despite it being a bit hard to come back, I also feel reinvigorated about the work. It’s easy to feel isolated and jaded when you are doing paperwork on a daily basis (even for psilocybin work), but Telluride helped to remind me that the work we are doing is meaningful—and that’s a good feeling to remember.
FF: We totally agree! It is always an interesting transition after a weekend of tight-knit, like-minded community fun time. How was your experience at the Telluride Mushroom Festival?
MK: TMF was an overall great experience for me. I learned a lot about mushrooms and their various uses. I was lucky in that I got to stay with all of the other presenters. So much knowledge in one little house. There were herbalists, mycologists, environmentalists, artists, and chefs—I felt very spoiled to be around so many fantastic people. Also, the parade was amazing. I definitely want to come back and have already been thinking about an outfit for the parade. One thing that I found frustrating at the conference was the lack of prominent female speakers/presenters. It’s a terrible trend and I think creating communities like this that can hold a presence at events like Mush Fest is a great place to start. I think a good goal for next year’s festival would be including more womyn speakers, and not just attendees.
FF: That is partly what fueled this project- the gap between the abundance of womyn at the festival and the lack of womyn presenters speaking directly on the topic of mycology. What would you say has been your overall experience as a womyn in the field?
MK: Super positive. I work on a fairly balanced team and I think that having the masculine and feminine input on how sessions are run is extremely important. We also strive to have a male and female guide present in all sessions if possible. This has been recommended by previous researchers and we have found that it can provide more grounding and feelings of safety for volunteers.
FF: It’s great to hear how positive of an experience you have had. We have had overall positive experiences as well, that’s not to there haven’t been any challenges, however. In general, what do you think are some of the challenges for womyn in the field, if any at all?
MK: As with any scientific field, I think a challenge for womyn can be about having (and wanting) it all. Family, friends, career—-it gets to be a lot.
FF: Balance is critical- What do you do for self-care and to maintain your own personal balance?
MK: It’s sometimes hard to strike a balance between work demands and personal demands. Vacation isn’t always an option so I try to eat good (read: healthy-ish) foods, hang out with positive people, and take part in things like yoga, running, and volunteer work. Also I’m working on trying to understand when I need to slow down, be alone, and sleep.
FF: Understanding your body and your mind are part of the long journey of growing to love yourself. What do you love about yourself?
MK: I love that I’m intensely curious, imaginative, and passionate about a lot of different things. It’s equally easy for me to get fascinated about something and then distracted by something.
FF: What are some of your passions (and distractions) in life aside from mycology?
MK: I love art and dabble in a variety of forms. I’ve worked part-time at a bead store for over a decade and really enjoy making jewelry. I used to sell it, but lately it has been on the back burner. I also enjoy making snarky cross-stiches, cooking, reading, and running.
FF: Those all sound like super fun time activities! And what is it exactly that you enjoy and love about mycology?
MK: I love that it is a field that can go in so many directions. From environmental fixes to spiritual development, there is a lot that can come out of mycology. I can only see it growing from here and diversifying further. Also I’m a big fan of mushrooms in omelets.
FF: Mmmm… mushroom omlets! Fully packed mycology omelets are our favorite here at at F&F. Speaking of food, we have to ask… What food do you crave during your moon cycle?
MK: Chocolate. Is that too cliche? It’s true though. Also french fries and tapioca pudding.
FF: Chocolate, cliche? Naw… just real talk. Thanks for indulging our curiosity. How did you get interested in mycology in the first place?
MK: My entry into this field started as an internship my senior year of college. I work in a lab focused on substance abuse and was able to switch to a lab that researches psilocybin (the psychoactive ingredient found in certain types of mushrooms) and its various clinical applications.
FF: Why is this type of research important to you?
MK: I really believe that there is a future in psilocybin being used for a variety of purposes. Specifically for palliative care (medical care that helps to reduce the pain, symptoms and stress of illnesses) and helping people prepare for the end of life. Being able to witness the transition and growth that occurs from a volunteer’s experiences is an honor and has impacted me on a deeply personal level.
FF: For what sorts of illnesses can psilocybin be used as a palliative measure?
MK: Currently we are using psilocybin as a palliative care treatment for individuals diagnosed with cancer who are experiencing depression or anxiety as a result of their illness. The idea behind palliative care is that it helps alleviate suffering in individuals with terminal illness, like stage IV cancer, and improve their overall quality of life. There is evidence to suggest that it can be used to improve the quality of life in those without a terminal illness. For instance, a case can be made for studying treatment-resistant depression or anxiety as well as post-traumatic stress disorder. While our lab is currently focused on illness-related depression and anxiety, we hope to to some day expand the reach of the research.
FF: It sounds like you and the others doing this research care immensely for people and trying to help them find ailments for some of the challenges that naturally arise during life. If you had advice to give a newbie to the field, to help guide them through some of their challenges, what would it be?
MK: Work hard, stay focused, and avoid closing doors. With the field growing so rapidly and at a fast pace it’s also important to stay up on current research and news within the field.
FF: Do you have any role models, mentors or wise wizards that have helped guide you along your path?
MK: So many wizards and mentors—it’s hard to name them all. Since we’ve been talking about work, I should mention two fabulous womyn I work with, Mary and Katherine. I’ve been at the lab for over 5 years and they’ve been great friends as well as mentors on how to live in balance and to enjoy life—the whole idea of maximizing quality of life within the confines of a 9-5 gig. Also, both of my parents have been strong role models in my life. I’d like to think I’m a mixture of both of their influences. They’re both extremely driven, compassionate people that are able to express unconditional love and support for their children. Both my brother and I are very fortunate to have their support.
FF: It is always nice to hear when a family is supportive of their mycophilic relatives- too often is the subject (and its human counterparts) misunderstood and under appreciated! We just have one more question for you…. If you could be a mushroom, which one would you be and why?
MK: Prior to a week ago (Telluride Mushroom Festival) I could have named only a handful of mushrooms. I guess I’d have to be the Red-Belted Conk*. The way they grow and the layers of rings seem to be a nice metaphor for growth and transition in life.
We want to thank Maggie for being an awesome womyn and interviewee.
To learn more about her research you can visit: www.cancer-insight.org
And find links to publications at: https://jshare.johnshopkins.edu/mklined1/public_html/Publications
The What & Why of Honoring “Womyn of the Month”
Womyn of the Month recognizes womyn scientists, activists, community organizers, humanitarians, and other womyn that are making a difference in the field of mycology or alongside our fungal friends. If you would like to nominate a womyn for this honor, please contact us at email@example.com.
The Female & Fungi Team
* The Red-Belted Conk (Fomitopsis pinicola) is an awesome mushroom that is widely distributed throughout the world. None of the online references to it did this truly impeccable species the justice it deserves. Its medicinal properties are being discussed now more than ever. We encourage you to dig deeper to learn more about this one and highly recommend reading the section dedicated to this fungus in Robert Rogers’ book The Fungal Pharmacy.